Life in the big city

Work is taking up a lot of my time these days, but that’s good. I’m more excited about it than I’ve been in a very long time. So I spent some hours in the office this weekend and yesterday evening was also mostly about work (with a little pizza break in between though ūüôā ). But I built this really cool ontology now (well, it still exists only on paper and pencil, and right now I’m on a little break from converting it to something digital :)) so that’s good. Today I didn’t get much done on it because I had some business downtown.¬†On campus I first met up with Liesbeth, an assistant professor from Tilburg University who’s visiting USC for lunch, which was cool¬†:). I then had to rush to my NLP course, was 5 minutes late, but that was OK, as the lecture hadn’t really started yet. Most of the lecture was actually discussing some assignments that weren’t really homework (but it was nice if you’d thought about it beforehand), which was cool. I then got a ride back to ISI from the professor, who decided to go for the scenic route through some of the roughest parts of LA (‘it’s maybe best to lock the doors’). Anyway, we made it back to ISI in one piece where I went straight on to the 11th floor for a sort of farewell reception (sort of because the person is going to USC campus), so there was cake and good conversations (for instance about fear of flying, music, and the German language).So yeah, that’s about what I’ve been up to. Here are some more unclassifyable random remarks:

  • I learnt how to deal with cupholders
  • Some supermarket trolleys also have cupholders
  • Americans love their cupholders
  • Jilly and Ashley (English ladies that surf) are coming to visit in March
  • Scallops,¬†asparagus and pasta are a great combination
  • (this also holds for: beef, chocolate and red wine btw)
  • There are 7inch centipedes on O’ahu
  • …and flying cockroaches
  • but also beautiful beaches, sea turtles and forests
  • I’m going to get back to work now

Cooking, the American Way

I cannot even begin to describe all the weird things I’ve come across here, mainly born from a wish to make¬†life easier and more convenient, so here’s¬†one example that I actually succumbed to yesterday (by force, I must add!). For the amount of effort that went into it it was actually quite alright, although it does assume¬†that you have a mixer, which I don’t and it involves melted butter, which doesn’t come out of a carton like that…but well, it was fun ūüôā



Things that occupy me these days:

  • Keeping updated on friends’¬†whereabouts such as Judith’s. I hope your stay in Scotland is everything you hoped it would be (and more) and that doctors there will listen to you unlike those quacks in our ‘kikkerlandje’.
  • Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks, more or less a daily thing now (and they even play Frames songs at Starbucks sometimes!!).
  • Browsing the web and coming across silly stuff.
  • Presidential elections. Hilarious and scary at the same time.
  • Reading about O’ahu for my upcoming holiday ūüôā
  • CIDOC-CRM,¬†and PowerLoom (work, work, work :))
  • Love

So much to do and so little time…

I don’t know what happened but I used to have more time to blog…but I’ve been doing some ubercool things, so that’s a good reason not to blog.¬†Since my last blogpost I’ve been working a lot on weekdays (cos that’s what I’m supposed to do, duh!), but I was trying to write a paper¬†so I spent some more time in the office than usual. In the end I didn’t succeed in writing a paper, although what I wrote is probably usable at some later stage, and it also provided some very valuable insights. Yesterday I attended a lecture on campus, which took up quite a bit of my afternoon (downtown LA isn’t quite around the corner). It was a bit cold so I bought a USC¬†jumper, which I’d been wanting to do for a while, but I’m never really on campus (which was quite an experience actually, like totally!). The campus shop at USC has taken university merchandise to a whole new level, the Tilburg University campus shop still has a long way to go (although I’m not so sure if underwear with your university logo is a good idea…the golf balls are fun though). I’m also trying to make yoga a regular activity again, so Wednesday night is yoga night, and after that there are usually drinks at a bar on Santa Monica Main Street.¬†Last week we visited an uberhip place called Barcopa, where they serve strawberry-vodka cocktails.¬†Needless to say that getting up on Thursday wasn’t pleasant…This Friday I didn’t fall asleep when I dropped off my stuff after work, so I made it to the Waterfront and then the Novel Cafe, which unfortunately didn’t have their fabulous raspberry-rhubarb pie on the menu that night, but the cherry pie was good too, especially with a nice cup of tea. David, Rahul, Jason and I had a jolly good time going through the bookshelves again (that evening’s favourites included med-school course books and “Writing your dissertation in 15 minutes a day“).

On Saturday I spent some money on books at an art bookshop in Beverly Hills, there was a big sale, but of course the books I chose weren’t on sale (I bought two books on symbolism in paintings and a small book on Frank Lloyd Wright). Near the bookshop I also found a very fancy tea shop (bags of tea of $80, that’s Beverly Hills baby!), so I bought a tea filter, and then the lady gave me some fancy tea samples. Oh and the bag was pretty¬†too ūüėČ

Back on the Westside my Saturday ended with a visit to one of Santa Monica’s many cinemas for Juno (absolutely wonderful! An instant favourite :)). Another favourite of mine these days is Starbucks Chai Tea Latte, so when I stopped by Barnes and Nobles on the way home from the cinema to pick up a copy of Wired Magazine I couldn’t resist…

On Sunday I meant to do some work, but instead I finished reading the Kite Runner. It’s just so hard to concentrate on work when there’s this unfinished book, screaming “read me, read me”. I am weak. I confess…In the evening David hosted a Martin Luther King day party, which involved watching football (I skipped that because I mean to work/was really reading a book and I don’t care about American football) and Playstation Rockband, which is just so insanely awesome you wouldn’t believe :). It’s a bit weird at first, like when you try SingStar for the first time, but once you get over the initial embarrassment it’s really wicked.

Monday was a nice quiet day at the office because most people were off because of Martin Luther King day, so I could play music in my office :).

And most of you already know, and otherwise you may have been wondering what the counter at the top of this page means, but one of the highlights of last week is that I booked a holiday to Hawaii. Just a long weekend, but yesterday my travel guide (one has to be prepared) came in and wow! the landscape is so stunning! I’ll be on O’ahu, where Lost and Jurassic Park were filmed, water and air temperature are around 25 centigrade. I don’t mind missing out on Carnaval for that :D.

A Cultural Saturday & a Splendid Weekend

I haven’t even been back in LA for a week but it already seems I’ve been here forever again. It really is a second home, with some of my stuff and great people around me. Anyway, last Friday, after I wrote my previous blog post I meant¬†to go out to the Happy Hour, instead I fell asleep. Probably too much pent-up fatigue taking over. Anyway, after a good night’s sleep I got up at 7 on Saturday morning to go surfing. The waves weren’t great and the water was a bit cold to be honest, but the sun kept me warm. After my surf session I met up with fellow art lover Paul to go to the Getty Center and after that to MOCA, LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art (which actually has several locations, but I’ll get to that later).

The Getty Center is located on top of a hill, so the views on the city, and even the ocean are absolutely fantastic, add to this that it was a gorgeously warm day so I could work on my tan while walking through the Getty gardens and you have a recipe for a successful afternoon. There were quite a few Dutch work, as well as some nice impressionist pieces, in large rooms, as much lit by sunlight as possible.

Around¬†rush hour we had to leave the Getty Center in order to make it to the other end of town for an event called “Pervasive Persuasion” at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. The idea was that¬†three LA based artists would discuss their work and how they’re inspired by the work of Takashi Murakami, of whom there is currently an exhibition at MOCA. Now, LA is not a fun place trafficwise. It is even less fun in rush hour.¬†Then Marieke finds out that her google-maps route says there’s the Japanese American National Museum at the pinpoint where she expected MOCA to be…LA is also not so big on signs, so upon getting close to where we thought we had to be we found tiny little signs saying MOCA, we then passed MOCA a few times, spotted it, parked, and found it closed. The security guy then told us we had to go to the other location, about a 5 min.¬†drive away in Little Tokyo, we found that the Geffen location of MOCA is actually right next to the Japanese American National Museum. Anyway, it was fine that we were about half an hour late, because we still had to queue, and then we still had time to see the Murakami exhibition because the artist panel wouldn’t start for another hour or so.¬†Apart from looking at the art objects, the other visitors provided a lot of entertainment, and then still the fun wasn’t over because the best thing about the evening was that we got to participate in a big collaborative painting exercise. So this involved all these fancy dressed people running around with paint and brushes (in some cases, even people fingerpainting :D).

Sunday was a quiet day in Venice, I did some grocery shopping and some tidying up, some more grocery shopping because the first shop I went to didn’t have everything I needed and I forgot to buy shampoo there, and spent the rest of the afternoon reading some papers. In the evening I did a little bit of experimental cooking, but not too experimental to scare people off, I guess, as Laura joined for dinner and we had a good time gossiping :).

Quite a good weekend, I’d say.


Back in LA

Pfff I don’t think I’ve ever had a busier Christmas holiday than this year’s…but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world, I had a great holiday. Thanks everyone!

So looking back at my blog I see that my last post was written on Boxing day, or well, the night before. So on Boxing day we celebrated Christmas at my mother’s parents, together with my uncles, aunt and cousins. Sinterklaas was postponed until I had gotten back (or St. Nick’s Day as people who celebrate it here call it) so we spent the better part of the afternoon reading hilarious poems (especially the one my very youthful aunt got) and unwrapping delicately put together presents we found under my grandparents’ 14ft Christmas tree (such as 30 oyster shells held together with tape with little presents or Christmas wishes inside, only to find the actual present at the bottom of the crate). There was also an issue of the family newspaper, and one of my uncles had made copies of all previous issues (going back 10 or 11 years).

On Friday Dec. 28 I went to Leiden to visit some friends. First I had lunch and tea with my housemate Sander (with some great chocolates from a cool chocolate shop). I then rushed to the English pub for Gl√ľhwein and Whiskey with Judith (sorry I was late!). On Sunday Hans and I went to the Efteling, our favourite theme park, which had been beautifully decorated for the holidays. Monday morning we had to say goodbye to “Ome Bart” and I spent New Year’s Eve watching TV. Jan. 1st was a lazy day, and I needed the rest because there was a big shopping expedition on Jan 2nd in Maastricht with mum and Diana. There I also met up with Sander, a PhD student from Tilburg, for coffee at a place that gets pretty close to a Starbucks experience, perhaps a bit fancier, but at least closer than any other place in the Netherlands.¬†The first stop of the day was at a place called Chocolate Company by the way, yet another great initiative for chocolate lovers :). I noticed some t-shirts in shops saying “Sunset Blvd” and “Santa Monica Beach”, so weird ;). Thursday was yet another shopping day, mainly to get my brother Hans some new clothes, but Sara and I got some cool stuff too. In the evening I had a lovely dinner at our favourite Italian restaurant in Breda with my dear uncles.¬†Peter came up with the idea of just filling the table with lots of different dishes and then just eat them tapas-style. The Grappa at the end was a bit too much (the waiter accidentally brought a glass to many which he then poured into mine…when I got home Hans asked me if I’d been drinking windscreen washer fluid…). On Friday I caught up with Steve and Piroska at Tilburg University, which was still very quiet. Saturday I went to Leiden again for tea with Judith and Arthur and dinner at & by Steve (great curry!) and I got to play my blue guitar again (which Steve is looking after for while I’m in LA). Sunday is traditionally a day that Dutch people go for a hike in the forest, so that’s what I did with my parents, We went to one of my favourite places where there’s also a large field of heather (although it was too muddy to traipse around that). On the way back we stopped at my mother’s parents to say goodbye, and to pick up my black velvet jacket that my grandmother had adjusted to fit me better. When we got home we had tea with my dad’s parents. The day was concluded with another Dutch Sunday tradition: takeaway Chinese!!! On my last day in the Netherlands I went to Tilburg University for half a day, because I still had some things to get in shops and I also wanted to hang out with my family a bit more. I had fun in¬†Tilburg though, it’s a fun place. In the evening I played our favourite boardgame Settlers of Catan with my parents and Hans. I should practice more, I keep losing to mum and Hans these days whereas I used to be pretty good at it!

On Tuesday morning my parents drove me to Schiphol again to fly back to the sun and my second life in the US. I hate goodbyes, but it’s for a good cause, and it’s not forever :). My first flight went pretty smoothly, I was sitting next to a company doctor from Rotterdam who was quite fun to talk to, I also read my magazine for a bit, and slept for a few hours…Getting through immigration at Chicago went pretty OK too, thankfully the customs didn’t confiscate my ‘eierkoeken’, Gouda and ‘pepernoten’ so I still have a little piece of Holland here :). My second flight was delayed about 45 minutes, and there was no food, which was when the ‘eierkoeken’ came in handy :D. It was nice to land in Los Angeles again, especially the last part of the flight was quite enjoyable as we flew over the city, only when you see the endless¬†grid of lights stretched out underneath you, you get a hint of how big LA really is…

I managed to stay awake until about 22:00 on Tuesday evening (which was really 07:00 Wednesday morning Dutch-time) and then went to sleep. Only to be wide awake again at 04:00 the next morning, same thing happened the next night. But cycling along the beach again in the morning helps, and then the coke with real sugar I also imported from the Netherlands to fight off the drowsiness in the afternoon.¬†I actually started writing this blog post last night, but I was so tired that I fell asleep about halfway, and I slept until about 08:00 this morning, so I guess fatigue won last night :). It’s also fun to be back at ISI. There was the ISD lunch yesterday, the bagel breakfast this morning, I already had some cool meetings, some Starbucks coffee/tea breaks and this afternoon I there was a fun talk by Kevin Knight.

It’s good to be back ūüôā